Would it be Armageddon to play Santi out wide?

By Daniel Cowan
In Arsenal
Dec 21st, 2012
28 Comments

So the world didn’t end. I knew it wouldn’t for a number of reasons but the biggest one is that Tottenham are currently above us in the league and any deity that exists or the will of the universe would not allow the world to be destroyed and have the spirits of Spuds spend eternity claiming superiority based on league position at the time of Armageddon.

God is a Gooner

After the Bradford result you could have sworn that the world was ending though and it’s probably the main reason I haven’t blogged in a few weeks.

I had so much I wanted to say after that game. About our lack of fight, spirit, killer instinct, vision, unity, tactical awareness, mental strength and passion but it all seemed so pointless. I was angry for days and it took a lot for me not to pick up my keyboard and slag off the players, the manager and the board. After I had calmed down I still had some thoughts about the game in me and wanted to blog them but by then we were visiting family and were returning on the day of the Reading game so I thought I’d wait to see if we had learnt what I thought we needed to learn and in some ways we did.

The Reading game was impressive for a number of reasons. The attacking display was excellent and Cazorla was imperious at times. For me though the biggest positive was seeing Theo play as our lone striker. I’ve always known that Theo has the ability to play as a striker but agreed with the apprehension over his ability to lead the line. Some will say that he was playing against a crap team but I think that is just people trying to belittle Theo’s abilities as many have done for the past 7 years.

Finally proved he is a striker? I think so

Theo’s movement was superb and I was glad he got a goal up front so that couldn’t be used against him because he really did lead the line well. His movement, runs and positioning really created the space that Podolski and Cazorla took advantage of. Cazorla was clearly the man of the match but I couldn’t take my eyes of Theo at times because he looked so natural in the CF role and showed great strength at times to hold up play. I think he finally proved to all but the most hypercritical of doubters that he is a striker.

Impressive as the team were, I still saw some of the things that made me so angry after Bradford and hope to share my thoughts with you if you’d care to read them.

I don’t want this to come across as a negative post because I don’t like to think of myself as a negative Gooner.  The things I want to get across aren’t new ideas or at least won’t be new to regular readers of my blog nor are they all unique to me. They are formation, positions, flexibility, tactics and focus.

The first one I’ll put out there will probably be the most contentious and that is I think Santi shouldn’t play as our CAM.

I’m sure that about 50% of the people that clicked on the link to visit this blog have now left in disgust or are skipping to the bottom to leave a “you’re an idiot” comment for me. If you’re still reading at this point either through curiosity, disgusted interest or agreement then I thank you.

When Cazorla is on it he is really on it and can be impossible to play against but sadly it has already been worked out that he can be marked out of a game and only the foolish or foolhardy since the Liverpool game have failed to put a man on him.

I’ve watched Santi closely and my pre-season opinion of him hasn’t changed at all. I think he’d be more devastating on the wing in our 4-3-3 or on the right of a 3 in a 4-1-3-2. I know he is more than capable of playing as a CAM when he can get into the game but I’d rather have him at his almost best for 90% of matches than at 100% for 50% of matches.

I love this photo so I thought I’d use it again. Frodo Cazorla, the one winger to rule them all.

Most of his best stuff, for me, has come from him being in a slightly wider area or drifting central from a wide area. My fellow blogger, Dave Seager, recently spoke about Santi playing in the Bergkamp role and I half agree with him. Position and talent wise I think of Santi more as Santi Ljungkamp or Santi Bergberg.

For me an Arsenal no.10/CAM is a player like Dennis, Cesc, and Rosicky and to some extent Jack. A player who spots passes no-one else spots and puts the ball into space the way Bergkamp and Cesc did. Santi isn’t that player for me. He has the ability, I do not doubt that for a second, but I think he is a player who is more about dribbling, running at players, jinking in and out and generally holding onto the ball as long as possible. Cazorla is a highly technical player, extremely gifted and one of the most exciting talents in the league but I don’t really see him as a one touch passing at speed on the turn type of player like Cesc was. In that role I prefer Rosicky and feel that Jack has the ability to do it long-term too.

I think in some games, Santi would be more dangerous in a wider position, either taking up the right forward position or if Wenger changed his formation depending on the opposition and played our old 4-1-3-2 formation, have him on the right of the middle three.

Santi’s ability to keep the ball at his feet, quick feet and brain and his low centre of gravity would completely bamboozle most full-backs and would destroy most centre backs when driving through the angles. Also, as @ArsenalDave14 points out, he is two footed and a superb crosser. The unpredictability of which foot he will use, his accuracy and the fact we have a 6ft 4″ striker who isn’t getting much wide service adds to the argument.

Unplayable at no.10 against the foolhardy but easily marked out too

He showed a great ability to run into the box at the right time against Reading and his movement reminded me so much of Freddie. Although they didn’t take up the exact positions of Pires and Ljungberg I thought that Podolski and Cazorla played the sort of game we used to see from Bobby and Freddie on a weekly basis.

In the Champions League or against foolhardy teams like Reading we could put Santi back in hole and watch him tear teams a new one but against the smarter teams like our top four rivals and the defensive teams like Stoke etc he’d be more dangerous in a position that couldn’t be so easily marked.

With players like Podolski, Theo, Santi, Jack, Ox, Rambo and Rosicky we have real flexibility in our team to play a number of different formations without making substitutions and our lack of tactical flexibility for me is a weakness.

He’s got the 10 shirt for a reason…. These three could kill it as the 3 in a 4-1-3-2

Many of my readers and twitter followers are huge Arsène Wenger fans so will see my comments about Santi and our tactical weakness as an attack on Wenger. I’m a Wenger fan too, I can’t thank the man enough for what he has done for my club and I certainly don’t want to see the back of him for a long time yet. Having said that, I don’t think he is perfect and have said that on many occasions. I am an Arsenal supporter first and foremost. The players, the manager, the board etc will all eventually leave but my Arsenal will always be there and it is for this reason that I think it is acceptable to question Wenger if I disagree with him.

I’m certainly not qualified to tell Wenger what to do and wouldn’t dream of it despite how my writing may come across but I think I’m qualified enough to make a few tactical observations as a supporter and share them with my fellow supporters. (I’d happily share my thoughts with Wenger if the opportunity arose though)

Just because you don’t do something it doesn’t mean you can’t. Most supporters have watched enough football to make a few tactical observations and 99% of us are armchair scouts.

We’re all tactical geniuses when in one of these

Moving back to the team.  I saw many improvements against Reading however there were two glaring problems that are yet to be solved. I feel we conceded those two goals because of our lack of killer instinct and our nonchalance when winning.

Our lack of killer instinct punishes us in so many games. We just can’t seem to hold onto leads or cannot put our chances to bed when we have them although the team cannot be blamed for Gervinho’s miss at Bradford, this isn’t an attack on him but that was 100% shit.

Our nonchalant attitude when we’re 2+ up is also extremely dangerous. It’s like the players think their jobs are done when we’re playing well and winning. We were 4-0 up and Ox started trying stupid flicks and back heels. All of a sudden it’s 4-2 and the supporters are nervous.

Part of what Pep brought to Barca and what made them so awesome was work ethic and focus. They saw the game out even if they were winning 5-0. There was no respite and there was no job-done attitude. There was pressing, chasing, winning and keeping the ball. Arsenal must learn to do this for 90 minutes every time they play regardless of the score line. It’s that sort of attitude that makes Swansea a dangerous team and why they beat us with 2 late goals. If they had 2 or 3 better players they might even be contenders for European places, maybe even 4th spot.

Added harry to Barcelona

The last thing I want to talk about is the Champions League draw. I think we’ve actually got a decent draw. We are playing a German team who will just be getting back to match fitness whilst we’ll hopefully be in form. Bayern aren’t the fastest team and if Chelsea can beat them with the team they had last season (albeit on penalties) then I’m certain Arsenal can.

Some say that we’ll need to purchase in January to beat them but I don’t agree. It would be great to buy an extra player or two in January as I think we’ll lose Arshavin and Chamakh (oh no I hear you all cry…. well I do cry because I think with the right formation and tactics those two players are dangerous) and Gervinho will be playing in AFCON. Huntelaar and David Villa seem to be the most linked names and the ones most supporters really want but I really want an experienced goalkeeper to challenge Szczesny. Unfashionable I know but the heart wants what the heart wants.

I have a nice guest post for you all tomorrow and another blog planned for Sunday/Monday. I know what you’re thinking, you wait ages for a blog and three come along at once!

Thanks for sticking with my ramble today.

Thanks for reading! Please comment on this post, subscribe by email, share with friends and follow me on twitter (@thedanielcowan).

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About "" - 465 Posts

I am a South London born Gooner now living in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex. I'm a husband, daddy, podcaster, trainer enthusiast and aspiring author. My work is my passion and for that I will always be grateful. Here is where I write my thoughts and views on Arsenal Football Club, the greatest team the world has ever seen.

28 Responses to “Would it be Armageddon to play Santi out wide?”

  1. Top_gooner says:

    Completely agree with your position on Santi. If you watch him play for Spain he starts wide and drifts centrally and that is when he is most dangerous. He also has all the trickery and crossing ability needed to be a terrifying wide man.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Thanks mate. Exactly that. Not many agreed with me when I called for him to play wide before he even joined but seeing him so easily marked out of most games I think has seen a few people change their minds.

    • Dan "GoonerMD" says:

      “so easily marked out of most games”

      Whoa.

      Not to mention he can be marked on the wing as well…

      I usually really like your blogs Dan, but you didn’t hit the heights here.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      It’s harder to mark a winger. You can’t dedicate the DM to marking him.

      I look forward to reading better from you the mate.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Whoa….? Am I wrong to say that he has been marked out of most games? I’m sure most would agree with me unless they are total fanboys.

      He has been taken out of most games by having a man put on him. It is much harder to do this with a wider player as if you put the DM on him it leaves too much space in the middle and you get punished. If you put the fullback on him you leave a space for the other fullback to exploit when you are dragged out of position or drift inside to cover the man.

    • Dan "GoonerMD" says:

      I thought the point of blogs was to generate a nice discussion, no? Don’t be offended, I’m not going to try to out-blog you or anything like that. I have 6 followers on twitter and I like it that way.

      I think it’s a fine idea to play Santi wide if we had someone just as good to come in the middle, but we just don’t. Rosicky’s a decent player but you seriously think he can just come in and be the main creative fulcrum? Plus don’t you think he’d be even easier to mark out of games than Santi supposedly is? Not to mention my earlier points about Santi’s form corresponding to the team performance as a whole, and his league leading stats in the position you want him to move out of… I’m not slating you Dan, I just want an intelligent dialogue. What do you think of these points?

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I’m not offended. I’ll try to reply in full tomorrow.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I’m not worried about being out-blogged mate, there are thousands of Arsenal blogs and I’m sure many of them are much better than mine.

      I appreciate you want intelligent dialogue but questioning the quality of the post compared to other posts is debasing the conversation for me. I can’t always better the last blog I wrote, sometimes the quality will dip or the topic isn’t as interesting but that’s just the way it works.

      With regards to Rosicky not being able to play that role or being easier to mark I totally disagree. TR7 hasn’t had many opportunities in that role but when he has he has looked sensational. Check out 1nildown2oneup.net for some great TR7 blogs that do him much more justice than I can in this comment.

      With regards to Santi’s effect on the team performance I point out that he has had more anonymous games than he has had sensational games. He might be leading the league in stats in his position but that doesn’t mean that is what is best for him or for the team. Remember, for a while this season Gervinho was our top scorer…. would you say he is our best striker?

      I think Santi could be even better in a wider role as that is the position he has spent 90% of his club and country career in. I also think it would give him even more freedom to express himself as he wouldn’t be the only player we try to play through. He might still be the main man but the responsibility will be shared more.

      In the blog there is also a line from @ArsenalDave14 and I think that adds to the case for using him wider…. at least in some games.

      I’m not saying Santi cannot play CAM nor that he should not play it, just not all of the time.

    • Dan "GoonerMD" says:

      I appreciate the considerate reply. We’ll agree to disagree this time on this particular issue, but I’m perfectly fine with that; a healthy difference of opinion creates the necessary environment for progress.

      Let me clarify that I did enjoy the way you constructed the blog and the way you made your argument, I just disagreed with your conclusions and thought maybe you hadn’t considered one or two things. Blogging is a tough business and I’m glad there are people out there like you who take the time you do to deliver a high quality product… without compensation, may I add.

      thanks for the conversation and I look forward to your next effort.

  2. Julien Durand says:

    Great points throughout, but for me, another clear advantage to Cazorla playing on the wing would be that poor ol’ Ramsey would no longer have to play out of position!
    A central Ramsey is a happy Ramsey.

    As you said, we have the players to shift tactics without even the need of substitutions and I would like to see Wenger exercise some of those options a bit more quickly and efficiently.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I totally agree. I really like Rambo and I think playing in a winning team where the pressure is off him a bit will help him get back on his pre-Stoke trajectory which will see him lauded as he has the potential to be.

    • Dan "GoonerMD" says:

      Ramsey’s not played wide out of necessity but presumably because Wenger likes his work rate in tough away games. He used to play Diaby and Eboue wide in similar situations.

    • Connor says:

      A central ramsey might be a happy ramsey, but a ramsey anywhere near the first team makes me an unhappy supporter. send him on loan, let him develop, and then we’ll see, but as of right now Ramsey is no where near arsenal first-team quality. that being said, I have nothing against playing Cazorla on the wing, just not at the expense of having to play ramsey in the middle.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I think if Santi was wide TR7 would play CAM. It’s worth noting that Ramsey’s poor form is massively over-exaggerated and he’s just signed a new contract so a loan is out of the question I think.

      PS in the future please use a real email address otherwise you’ll end up in the spam again. Your email address is not stored, used nor sold.

  3. Dan "GoonerMD" says:

    I kind of agree with your points on Santi. It’s true he’s been “marked out” of a few games, but those games tended to be ones in which we were outplayed in general. His lowest player ratings have been against Chelsea, Villa, both Schalke games, Montpelier (away) and surprisingly, West Brom.

    I think he struggles when we don’t control the flow of the game and the possession, just like any attacking player would. When he spends most of his time chasing the ball and the team doesn’t pass it very well he’s not going to be able to impact the game from any position.

    He did have one glaring hole in his game that was effectively highlighted by Gary Neville in the Reading pre-game: he’s too prone to come to the ball and doesn’t make enough runs in behind. Well, he put that straight against Reading, so my hope is this is something the coaches have recognized and instructed him about.

    I don’t really agree that he doesn’t have the ability to play one touch passes on the move. If anything, his team mates are often too slow to read what he’s going to do. I’ve seen many times when his passes rolled harmlessly through to a keeper because one of the other players didn’t make a run. This kind of thing will improve the more they play together.

    Finally, although I believe Santi would be fantastic from wide, the truth is he’s our best player by miles, so we have to put him in the position where he’s most likely to be able to exert a significant influence, and that is in the center.

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Thanks for your comment. I must stress that I never said he doesn’t have the ability to play one touch passes just that it’s not his strong area not do I think he does it better than others we have. I must also disagree about the centre being his strongest position for a number of reasons. Firstly, have you ever seen him play anywhere else for Arsenal? Then we have nothing to compare. I can say I think he’ll be better out wide but I’m not guaranteeing he will be. Secondly, he had spent most of his career wide.

      I must also disagree with his play being too good for the team because I think that highlights, for me, his for want of a better word “unsuitability” to play CAM. What Cesc did brilliantly was pick the pass that would reach a player. Anyone can pass into space and not have a player run onto it. The best no.10’s pass into space they know will have a teammate running into it.

    • Dan "GoonerMD" says:

      He doesn’t have Cesc type ability to pick assists (who does?) but he’s still the best we’ve got in that area 😉 It has to be said overall that Santi’s been brilliant in the hole; he has the highest composite match rating of any player in the premiership according to Whoscored and is the second most creative player in the league according to EPL index. Why mess with success?

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      I disagree that overall he has been brilliant because he hasn’t. He either has brilliant games or anonymous games. Overall that is not brilliant.

      He is brilliant, if that is what you meant.

      I don’t agree he is the best we have in that area either as I think it weakens the team as a whole as we tend to try to play everything through him. I think as a team we’d be better if we rotated him between CAM and the wing/wide/RCM. Why mess with success? I wouldn’t exactly call our performances success. Santi’s talent should really destroy most teams but he hasn’t and for me that comes down to position.

    • Dan "GoonerMD" says:

      I replied to you below in the 1st comment.. cheers

  4. Qasim says:

    in the premier league u need to track up and down the wing?? Can u see santi doing that for 90 mins against the likes of Valencia and bale…

  5. Dave Highbury says:

    Santi right, Wilshire/Diaby/Arteta middle.Pod left, Theo or Giroud up front. That would kick butt.

  6. loose cannon says:

    I don’t get it why ramsey is played wide. wenger knows ramsey played central mid before the shawcross incident. is he trying to turn ramsey into a winger? or has wenger lost faith in ramsey playing the central position? nevertheless at least ramsey hasn’t complained in the public why he’s not played his preferred position, unlike some.
    Now that rosicky is fit, he should take the CAM position and move cazorla to the wings. But considering the inflexibility in wenger, I doubt its gonna happen. if gervinh, poldi and walcott can be experimented with the CF and wing why can’t ramsey and rosicky be allowed to play the CM position. why is wenger inflexible ?

    • Dan "GoonerMD" says:

      Re: ramsey wide

      It’s a deliberate tactical ploy against tough opponents. Whether it works or not is another matter… Chelsea away, Everton this year it’s worked a treat. Bradford? Not as much.

  7. Have to say your post had me thinking about something which initially I had out-rightly rejected. A point that I would like to stress though is the work-rate required by a winger. I dont think Santi is capable of doing that throughout the game. This would effect the confidence with which our fullbacks attack, pretty much what we saw with Poldi and Gibbs. Plus, he doesnt have that great a turn of pace which is generally required of a winger, especially with the kind of game we play. He would suit in a wide position in a team like Barca, we rely too much on pace for him to play wide.

    Another point, he does have a brilliant passing range, but players are not on the same wave-length. Also, comparisons with Cesc are both unfair and premature. Cesc was, lets admit, another level. And Cesc played in the system for a long time which helped him hone his skills. I feel Santi deserves his chances.

    Also, TR7 wont be able to play 90 mins week in week out, but this issue can be sorted through rotation.

    A rather long comment, but all this came to my mind after reading your post. Enjoy!

    • Daniel Cowan says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I have to say that Santi spent 90% of his career on the wing before joining Arsenal and in our old 4-1-3-2 formation he’d be playing RCM so wouldn’t be taking up a natural wingers role.

      Pace wise, he isn’t as nippy as he was a few years ago but he wouldn’t need to be with feet and brains like him. His mind and his touch would negate the need for speed in my opinion.

      I must also point out that I’m not comparing him to Cesc’s talent per se, just the role he took up within the team. I feel Rosicky and Jack would we better at playing through balls and one touch assists etc.

  8. aiyk the gunner says:

    I qute with your in some ways,buti simply would want to disagree abit.. true that, when you talk about santi’s use of space and skill and positioning but that is the mark of a true SS and not a winger, i don’t know if you have notice though but some times santi get tired when he runs so much with the ball and he is not as pacy and skillful as a winger should be (no disrespects), i think we need a nani-like winger and santi should just keep doing business from the middle of the park… this is my opinion anyways.. hope we get a very nice game tomorrow

  9. wenkev02 says:

    I don’t think saintly would be very happy playing out wide As Wenger told him to play with freedom and he stated that he was delighted to play like that. I think his biggest problem is being over played

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